3 Years After My Mother’s Lung Cancer, I’m a Non-Smoker
These are my mother's lungs. Well, my mother's lungs of three years ago. You don't have to be a doctor or look all that closely to notice a large white spot. That large white spot shouldn't be there. That large white spot was cancer. Lung cancer.
The same week in 2012 that my mom first ended up in the ER with what would eventually end with a cancer diagnosis, I had planned on quitting smoking. I had set my quit date for the Friday of that week. I was done. I wanted freedom. And then, to quote the Fresh Prince, "life got flipped turned upside down."
You'd think my mother being diagnosed with lung cancer would only further galvanize me to quit smoking, but it didn't. Life was in crisis mode. I was her support system, and although I just wanted to fall the f*@k apart, was still a single mom and had to remain strong for her two beautiful grandkids, who asked every day when their grandma would return home from the hospital and why cancer had to be so mean, a question I still don't know the answer to.
Nicotine and cigarettes do this tricky thing where they convince you that need them; that you're incapable of coping with stress without them. Quitting during an extra stressful period seems impossible, as it did at the time. So I scratched the quit date and continued ducking outside the hospital for smoke breaks while 3/4 of my mother's lung was removed in an operating room inside.
My mother once was a smoker, but quit in her mid 40s, about 25 years prior to her diagnosis, and the fact that it caught up with her scares the heck out of me — something I tried to push out of my mind for the past three years as I continued to smoke just as all smokers fearfully push the blatant risks they're taking out of the minds.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and ever since my mother beat cancer, having her over my shoulder nagging at me while I cook sits atop the list of things I'm thankful for, and this year was no different (although she didn't do as much nagging as usual so my cooking must have been on fleek, y'all), except this year I was also thankful to finally be able to call myself a non-smoker as well, meaning with each day, I'm greatly reducing my own risk of lung cancer and my children's chances of having to, like me, walk hospital hallways worrying about their mother's lungs.
Quitting wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done, but it wasn't as difficult a feat as I built it up to be over the past three years. I took the cold-turkey route this time, cutting myself from nicotine and getting the withdrawal over with like ripping off a Band-Aid. If you've considered smoking, and even if you haven't but still smoke, you can totally become a non-smoker as well. I worked with the folks at A Smoke-Free Paso del Norte initiative to set my quit date and stick to it, and this resource is available to you as well. Visit them online to set your quit date.